Sermon by Pastor Tom Brown · Jun 11, 2023 · Mark Series

This morning we are in Mark 12:13-17.

The passage has two layers of narrative for us to unpack.

The big picture of Mark is the unfolding of the revelation of Jesus. The deceptive and hypocritical Sanhedrin is opposed to the Messiah but Jesus can’t be trapped. He will accomplish his purposes on his terms and on his timeline. He is always in control.

The story within the story is a question of ethics. What is a godly response to government?

Jesus’ response to the attempted trap of the Sanhedrin was absolutely brilliant. He sidestepped a no-win question with penetrating wisdom.

“The statement by our Lord was not only astounding the instant it was uttered, but is even today universally acclaimed to be the single most influential political statement ever made in the history of the world.”

-R. Kent Hughes

This morning we are going to take a survey of what the New Testament teaches about the Christian response to government.


The Christian political orientation: in, but not of the world.


Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 18:36


Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11


But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 3:20


Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

1 Peter 2:16


“The man who is devoted to God does not make the issue of his political freedom the number one priority in his life.” -Sinclair Ferguson


Key NT passages on Christians and government:

  • Romans 13:1-8
  • 1 Peter 2:13-17 1
  • Timothy 2:1-4
  • Mark 12:13-17


Submit to authorities, because . . .

  1. they derive their authority from God. (Romans 13:1)
  2. resisting God’s authority leads to judgment. (Romans 13:2)
  3. you will be in good standing with the law. (Romans 13:4)
  4. your conscience will be at peace. (Romans 13:5)
  5. it will silence those who want to slander Christians. (1 Peter 2:13-17)


Submit to authorities by . . .

  1. obeying their laws. (Romans 13:1-5)
  2. paying your taxes. (Romans 13:7)
  3. paying your debts. (Romans 13:7-8)
  4. showing respect and honor. (1 Peter 2:17)
  5. praying for them. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)


Twelve examples of civil disobedience in the Bible

  1. Hebrew midwives – would not kill infant boys (Exodus 1:15-22)
  2. Moses’ mother – hid him for three months (Exodus 2:1-2, Hebrews 11:23)
  3. Elijah – resisted the unrighteous rule of king Ahab (1 Kings 18)
  4. Mordecai – refused to obey the king’s edict to bow down to Haman (Esther 3:1-6)
  5. Esther – entered the king’s inner court without being called (Esther 4:16)
  6. Jeremiah – defied king’s order for the people to stay in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 38:1-6)
  7. Daniel’s friends – refused to bow down to the image of the king. (Daniel 3)
  8. Daniel – sought permission to refuse the chief official’s proscribed diet (Daniel 1), defied edict forbidding prayer for 30 days. (Daniel 6)
  9. The three wise men – ignored Herod’s command to return and inform him of Jesus’ location, instructed to do so in dream. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  10. Jesus and the disciples – healed and ate grain on the Sabbath, against the command of religious authorities (Mark 2)
  11. Peter and John – ignored the order to stop speaking in Jesus’ name “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.” (Acts 4:1-22)
  12. The apostles – again refused to stop teaching in Jesus’ name “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:17-42)


“It is because men are sinners that justice can be achieved only by a certain degree of coercion on the one hand, and by resistance to coercion and tyranny on the other hand.” -Reinhold Niebuhr


“If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God.” -Francis Schaeffer


When is it time for civil disobedience?

  1. When asked to violate God’s command.
  2. When asked to do an immoral act.
  3. When forced to violate conscience.


What should be our character in our response to authority?

  1. Respect
  2. Honor
  3. Love
  4. Faith

Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown